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Handicap Signs Get Personal In Arvada

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) - Most handicap parking signs look relatively the same across America, but one Denver suburb is going a step further to make sure able-bodied people don't use handicap spaces.

Arvada city workers began putting new signs up in this month. Beneath the universal symbol for a handicap parking space is a picture of a disabled person. Some of the pictures are of Chris Hinds, a paraplegic since a 2008 car accident.

"For people with disabilities this is often their number one issue," Hinds said.

But as CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass found last year, able-bodied drivers often ignore the generic signs and park in handicap spaces anyway. In many cases the drivers have forged handicap placards so they can just park a little closer.

RELATED: Arvada Finds Handicap Parking Problem Worse Than Anticipated

The dishonest drivers risk a $350 ticket just to shorten their walk to the store, but they still do it.

"When people park in a space and they don't necessarily need it, they're denying someone else's ability to park there and it's a matter of civil rights," Hinds said.

Arvada city councilman Bob Fifer is hoping the new signs have more punch.

"I think the impact is realizing you are actually impacting a person, and you actually visually see why these spaces need to remain available," Fifer said.

The city has put up about 25 new picture signs at two Arvada grocery stores where the handicap violations have been highest.

HANDICAP SIGNS chris hinds
(credit: CBS)

In a few months Arvada will evaluate if the signs are working, and possibly expand the program.

"It's also a sterile symbol, and once we add a human element I think that people may realize, 'Oh, by parking in this space, even for a minute, I am actually hurting someone who legitimately needs the space,' " Hinds said.

Arvada says if the pilot program works they wouldn't be surprised to see it being picked up by other cities and towns.

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